There are a lot of people who simply seem unable to live without excitement, without stimulation. Whether it comes from pleasure – or from crisis – they thrive on activity, on chaos, confusion – on dealing with problems – on adrenalin – on constant drama – in fact, we sometimes call them ‘drama queens’, regardless of gender.
The time that exists between one crisis and another, between one activity and another is regarded by them as boring, dull, . . as time that is lost, . . . time that is unimportant, . . time that doesn’t count.
Even people who are not adrenalin junkies find it difficult sometimes, to face a period of time in which not too much is happening, things are relatively calm, a period of time in which they must wait for a promise to be fulfilled,. . .for an event to happen, . . .something new to begin.
Today’s reading from the Book of The Acts Of the Apostles tells us how the disciples found themselves in this kind of situation – how they found themselves facing a period in which they would simply have to wait for Christ’s promise to them to come true.
After the resurrection, Jesus visited with his disciples on several occasions. He taught them, He encouraged them, He commissioned them to do a job, and then – on the day of His ascension into heaven, when they were anxiously asking Him when His kingdom would be established, when the next installment of the divine plan would take place, He tells them that it is not for them to know the times or periods established by God. That they should go back to Jerusalem and wait,
- wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit
- wait for the power they would need to witness for Him there, in Judea, and all of Samaria and ultimately in all the world.
For many, waiting is a dreadful thing, just ask any child. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Living between times, living between occasions in which all of our minds and hearts and energy are absorbed in affairs of significance can, in fact, be quite wonderful.
It can be for us:
- a pause that refreshes
- a time in which we gain strength
- a time in which we quietly grow and are prepared for that which will come next
But living in the times between, in those times
- Between one phase of our lives and the next
- between one job and another
- between the time when the first child has married and the last has yet to enter school
- between the period when we have lost one dear friend and have yet to find another
These times can be difficult for us if we do not know how to wait in the manner recommended by the words of Jesus.
So how does He advise us to spend the times between?
There are three important ways.
FIRST, we need to remember the times in between are not to be passive times but times in which we are meant to work at that which is at hand – rather than at that which is yet to come. It is a time for us to pray, to examine, to contemplate, to seek understanding. In the times between, our eyes are meant to be fixed on the present. We are called to live in the ‘now’, rather to live in the future.
SECONDLY, we are called to live as Christ has shown us to live – in obedience and in connection with Him and the Father. When the disciples returned to Jerusalem they stayed together. They joined themselves with the rest of those who believed in Jesus, they sought to be one as Christ had prayed that they would. They stayed together and searched their hearts and minds, preparing themselves for the job Jesus gave them to do.
Our task in the times between. whether it is a time between what is obviously one work of God and another, or simply a time between one event in our daily lives and another is to make ourselves ready to be used by the Spirit; that Spirit which may come, as it does so often – sooner than we think.
AND THIRD, in the times between we need to trust and have confidence that what has been promised to us by God will come to pass. Whether that promise is a spiritual gift, a promise of comfort or of a new life or a promise to bless us and use us in some particular way his service.
In the times between, the times of waiting, we must trust in the Lord to come through, we must remember His resurrection and His ascension; we must remember what He has done for us in the past, and wait for the next act, the next promise to come true.
Such simple advice, . . .yet to easy to forget.
Trust in the Lord – not in other things – and live today – this day as He asks us to, connected to Him and to His word by prayer and meditation individually and with your brothers and sisters on earth in holy obedience.
I want to leave you with a story – a true story:
- A little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it was ‘too crowded.’ ‘I can’t go to Sunday School,’ she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday school class. The child was so happy that they found room for her, and she went to bed that night thinking of the children who had no place to worship Jesus.
Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings. Her parents called for the kindhearted pastor who had befriended their daughter to handle the final arrangements. As her poor little body was being moved, a worn and crumpled red purse was found which seemed to have been rummaged from some trash dump. Inside was found 57 cents and a note, scribbled in childish handwriting, which read:
- ‘This is to help build the little church bigger so more children can go to Sunday School.’
For two years she had saved for this offering of love.
When the pastor tearfully read that note, he knew instantly what he would do. Carrying this note and the cracked, red pocketbook to the pulpit, he told the story of her unselfish love and devotion. He challenged his congregation to get busy and raise enough money for the larger building.
But the story does not end there…
- A newspaper learned of the story and published It. It was read by a wealthy realtor who offered them a parcel of land worth many thousands. When told that the church could not pay so much, he offered to sell it to the little church for 57 cents. Church members made large donations. Checks came from far and wide. Within five years the little girl’s gift had increased to $250,000.00 — a huge sum for that time near the turn of the century. Her unselfish love had paid large dividends.
When you are in the city of Philadelphia, look up Temple Baptist Church, with a seating capacity of 3,300. And be sure to visit Temple University, where thousands of students are educated. Have a look, too, at the Good Samaritan Hospital and at a Sunday School building which houses hundreds of beautiful children, built so that no child in the area would ever need to be left outside during Sunday School time.
In one of the rooms of this building may be seen the picture of the sweet face of the little girl whose 57 cents, so sacrificially saved, made such remarkable history. Alongside of it is a portrait of her kind pastor, Dr. Russell H. Conwell.
This is a true story, which goes to show WHAT GOD CAN DO WITH 57 CENTS.
Imagine what He can do with more.
As I leave my placement at Trinity to bring the good news of Jesus’ love to the wider diocese and ‘encourage’ political forces to remember the teachings of Jesus to ‘feed his sheep, I challenge each and every one of you to continue the work we all have started at Trinity, to extend your hands to the homeless, the disenfranchised, the forgotten, those in our community who just need a hand or a little help to be what God created them to be.
Remember the words of Jesus:
- What you do to the least of these you do to me (Matthew 25:45)
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, may there be peace within each of us today. May we trust your highest power that we are exactly where we are meant to be. May we not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May we use those gifts that we have received, and pass on the love that has been given to us. May we be content knowing we are a child of God. Amen.
Delivered at Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH, 24 May 2009